Mr DICK (Oxley) (16:16): We know that education is the backbone of the future of Australia, and I want to make sure that we have legislation that looks after all of our students in this country so that they can get the quality education they need and deserve. So Labor will not be opposing this bill, the Australian Education Amendment (Direct Measure of Income) Bill 2020, in the House of Representatives. But I do want to put some remarks on the Hansard today about the importance of quality education and, even more important, quality education funding. I want to make sure that families feel completely supported and that they actually have the support they need so
that their kids, whether they be in public, private or independent schools, have all options available to them. This bill makes funding changes to private schools and completely ignores our public schools. I just want to read from the second reading amendment that the shadow minister for education and training moved this morning:
… "whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House notes that the Government has damaged
Australia’s schooling system by:
(1) neglecting public education;
(2) allowing student results to fall in reading, maths and science; and
(3) failing to develop a long-term education policy for the nation and the economy'.
I'll come back to that amendment in a moment. The bill itself, as we've just heard from the member for Higgins, seeks to introduce a new method of calculating a family's capacity to contribute to the cost of their child's private education, altering the way non-government school funding is allocated. This will calculate the capacity to contribute, or CTC, based on a direct measure of the income of families of students at the school, rather than on the average SES of the neighbourhood students live in. The proposed direct measure of income is a targeted, more accurate approach and should ensure funding flows to the non-government schools that need it the most.
We've had a lot of lectures from those opposite about their record amount of education funding. They believe that they should be congratulated by the community for increasing funding year on year. What the government never admit or acknowledge is that they've never matched Labor's commitment to funding schools properly in this country.
I reiterate that Labor will not be opposing this bill today. In principle, we do support the move to a more accurate and robust direct measure of school communities' capacity to contribute to the cost of education at nongovernment schools. I'm pleased that this bill was referred to a Senate committee—which I understand will be releasing its report shortly—so that this bill, which makes significant changes to the education sector, receives the scrutiny appropriate for such legislation.
This legislation once again shows that the coalition government, led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, really has turned its back on every public school parent and child in Australia by refusing to properly fund public schools. The government is happy to spend $3.4 billion to deliver targeted—and this is the key word—needsbased funding to private schools, but it refuses to provide a single extra dollar for underfunded public schools.
The Prime Minister thinks that the students who go to public schools and their parents don't matter. There are around 2½ million public school students—two out of three of all students in this country. Public schools teach 82 per cent of the poorest kids in Australia, 84 per cent of Indigenous kids and 74 per cent of kids with disabilities. I want to focus on the second reading amendment and particularly highlight to the House that we're seeing results falling in reading, maths and science. My view is that a good education in a properly funded school is the right of every single student in Australia. You should have quality education no matter if your parents choose to send you to a fee-paying school or to the local public school. We're seeing time and time again more pressures on
teachers. The narrative coming out of government is that somehow it's not about funding. If you turn on Sky After Dark, you'll hear the same commentators go on about how funding isn't the answer; it's about quality and the teachers. We heard the member for Bowman say that it's all the fault of the teachers. My sister is a state school educator in Queensland. I'm very proud of her being an educator. She has been an educator for over 30 years. She has taught in schools in far western Queensland—she began her teaching career in Cloncurry—she has taught in the United Kingdom and she currently teaches year 4 at a southside Brisbane school. She absolutely loves being a teacher, and she is an amazing teacher. She's an amazing sister as well, but she really is a terrific teacher. I've obviously spoken to her for many years about her role as an educator. Like
probably every other state school teacher in the nation, she knows that our schools are not being properly funded.
I talk to educators in my own electorate of Oxley. This morning we heard the shadow minister for education and training, the member for Sydney, explain to the House that by 2023 we will see funding inadequately distributed between public schools and non-government schools. The divide is growing. On Friday the 27th I'll be attending a farewell for a much-loved deputy principal in my community—Mrs Tracey Slingsby. I want to spend a little time in my speech today wishing Mrs Slingsby all the best. I know that she would be very proud of me speaking about funding for public schools. She is a proud public teacher who has changed the lives of literally thousands of students. Her husband, Errol, was a principal at Oxley State School. He has retired. I know all members of
this House wish any teacher retiring after a distinguished career a long and happy retirement. They've earnt it. I place on the record today that the teachers I've met in my electorate—through my family, friends and the work I've done—are really concerned about the future funding of our national education system.
Let's look at some of the education results, which I said I would do. In the 2018 Program for International Student Assessment, Australia recorded its worst results in reading, maths and science since international testing began. Our students are facing a long-term decline.
I went through the report. It says: The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a triennial survey of 15-year-old students that assesses the extent to which they have acquired the key knowledge and skills essential for full participation in society. The assessment focuses on proficiency in reading, mathematics, science and an innovative domain (in
2018, the innovative domain was global competence), and on students' well-being.
The PISA survey is held every three years to test how well students in their final years of school apply their knowledge to real-life challenges. In 2018 it was sat by more than 14,000 15-year-old Australians from 740 schools, joining 600,000 students from 79 countries. In maths, 15-year-olds performed more than a year below those in 2003; in reading, a year lower than those in 2000; and in science a year worse than those in 2006. By these measures we are currently preparing a future workforce less equipped than it was 20 years ago. The decline in school performance has worrying implications for long-term economic growth, with a 1 per cent change in literacy associated with a 2.5 per cent change in labour productivity. I encourage all members of the House to support the second reading amendment to show to our public school sector that we understand their need and, more importantly, that this House recognises that we are seeing slippage and a fall in results in reading, maths and science, and we are failing to develop a long-term education policy for the nation's economy.
The data speaks for itself. On 4 December, when these results were mentioned, The Sydney Morning Herald said:
Australia ranked a lowly 70th out of 77 participating nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's 2018 index of disciplinary climate, released on Wednesday.
We have slipped in a serious way. Australia is one of the minority of countries where it has deteriorated. That's an important part of the conversation: on the world stage, our ranking and the data that we're finding are going backwards. This should be a wake-up call to all members. Since 2003 maths performance has declined further than any other country except Finland.
When the current Australian education minister was asked about this, he is quoted as saying that this should be ringing alarm bells for the government. That is interesting, because he is the government, the government responsible for education policy in this country. I expected that we would have seen a direct response to this. For the first time ever, performance in maths was no better than the global average. In maths, which is clearly a key area of education, we're seeing a reduction in performance and outcomes. I don't know about anyone else in this House, but I am deeply concerned about the education plan that we are seeing delivered now by this government
in its sixth year, working towards its seventh year. We're seeing real results going backwards. The PISA national project manager, Sue Thomson, described the results as 'a wake-up call'. She said, 'We're not giving them the skills they need in maths, or in reading, or in science. We're not giving them the same level of skills as they are in other countries. This is a concern, particularly in a global economy where our kids will compete with kids all over the world.'
We can analyse results in black and white till the cows come home, and they are all there for the world to see. What I'm calling for by supporting the second reading amendment today—the government seems happy to spend $3.4 billion to deliver targeted needs based funding to private schools, but they aren't delivering an extra dollar for underfunded schools. That doesn't sit easily with me. It doesn't sit easily with the educators that I have been meeting with since I was re-elected as the member for Oxley. I was at two remarkable schools in the break. I visited the mighty Woodcrest State College. One of the greatest things we have to do as members of parliament is to be part of leadership ceremonies and watch students step up and take on the role as leaders in their school and community. I often say, 'I don't know who is more proud: the parents of the students who are receiving these great leadership roles or the teachers.' That is particularly so at
secondary level. Pat Murphy, the principal of Woodcrest secondary college, was telling me how a number of his students had started from Camira State School, which is nearby the secondary college, and gone right through. So he's watched their education journey. That sums it all up: when you're seeing teachers as proud as parents it means they want the best for their kids, as we all want for kids in our community. But, time and time again, you're seeing a government not investing enough in education for under-resourced schools. I've got some great schools, such as the Kruger State School, where I attended a leadership ceremony as well. Those kids are kicking goals.
The Kruger Crocs are going from strength to strength. The teachers are giving them their all and the principal is providing school leadership, but what we're not seeing is proper funding for under-resourced schools. That's why I entered this debate today. As I said, Labor won't be opposing this piece of legislation. Of course we want funding for all schools. But we're calling on the government and ensuring that, whilst their priority today in this bill is to deliver $3.4 billion for needs based funding to private schools, they simply follow that procedure for under-resourced schools in this country as well. We want to turn those results around. I haven't yet heard one government speaker talk about the failing results in reading, maths and science, which are there for everyone to see. What the teachers, students and parents in Australia are calling for is more funding, more action and better results.